The Washington State Building Code Council voted 11-3 late Friday (Earth Day, April 22) to adopt a new statewide commercial and multifamily building energy code that advocacy group Climate Solutions is calling “the strongest, most climate-friendly in the country by driving the transition to clean electricity for space and water heating.” WASEIA was directly involved in the 18-month process that produced the revised commercial energy code. Gavin Tenold of Northwest Renewables in Spokane served on the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) that crafted the amendments with the assistance of TAG alternate Jon Lange of Sunergy Systems in Seattle.

For the first time, the new commercial energy code will also mandate that new commercial buildings larger than 10,000 square feet include a “renewable energy generation system,” usually solar panels, of at least 0.5 W/square foot. Where shading or other factors rule out onsite solar panel installation, offsite solar or other renewable energy can be credited under certain circumstances.

Among other provisions of the updated energy code that will take effect in July 2023, new commercial buildings, including multifamily residential buildings four stories and taller, will be built with high-efficiency electric heat pumps for water and space heating, not fossil gas.

The new commercial building code is projected to cut more than 8 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2050, equivalent to the annual emissions of 1.8 million cars. The updated energy code also includes improvements to building envelopes and efficiency that will further save energy for building users.